Recently I have heard some people express concerns about speaking to others about their Christian faith. For most, when they hear the word evangelism they get a mental image of walking onto a stranger’s front steps and knocking on their door and then asking them if they know Jesus Christ. I can honestly say that the very notion of doing this frightens me and I would expect that I wouldn’t be warmly welcomed. Thankfully, statistics indicate that this method is not the most effective form of evangelism.
A few years ago Rev. Dr. Jeffrey A. Johnson, American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ national coordinator of Evangelism and New Church Planting, wrote a book called ‘Got Style‘ that introduced friendship evangelism. Dr. Johnson once met with a group that had gathered here at Meridian Avenue on a weekday afternoon to discuss friendship evangelism. Dr. Johnson’s book says that the most effective evangelism is where you share your faith in the context of a friendly, casual conversation. This is done by looking for opportunities to talk about your own faith experiences.
So how does friendship evangelism work? There are several ways in which to utilize friendship evangelism, the way that I like best is to look for a chance to make a statement that offers an opportunity that allows the listener to begin asking me questions. Below are a couple of examples that have worked for me in the past.
While sharing a pizza with someone from work I mentioned that the best pizza crust that I ever had was while I was in Santa Ana, El Salvador. A statement like that will either not be responded to or it will prompt the other person, or persons, to ask what I was doing in El Salvador. The answer to his question was that I was there helping to build new homes following two devastating earthquakes in 2001. Often more questions will then be asked; how did you get there, who were you working with, what things did you see and why did you go?
Another choice that I have used to start the same general line of questions and responses is by stating that the most unusual thing I have eaten is Iguana. This normally receives questions such as, where did you eat that which is followed by what you were doing there. (I was in Nicaragua at the time.)
The point of this type of methodology is that the other person(s) feel that they are in control of the conversation. If you, out of the blue, begin a discussion about the need of salvation, or about what Christ has led you to be a part of, you are controlling the conversation and others may feel threatened that the ‘do you know Jesus’ question is coming. On the other hand, if you can turn the conversation so that others are asking questions, then they are leading the conversion and they feel less stressful. From their perspective it is simply a friendly conversation.
Generally, if you can put another person into directing the flow of the conversation then they are more open to actually listening to what you have to say. People are often eager to hear how God has influenced our lives…. as long as they are asking the questions.
Questions are bridges for effective evangelism. If you feel that you don’t know enough to effectively witness (evangelize), be assured that you know more than you think you do and always trust God to take the conversation to where it ought to go. When exercising friendship evangelism be sure to subtly mention that whatever you have done is to God’s glory and never for your own.
It is the task of the Holy Spirit to save the lost, not our’s. Our job is to plant seeds and to water the garden that another may have already planted. The Holy Spirit will move in a person’s life when the time is right. We are to be available and willing to share Jesus in our life but we should earn the trust, from another person, to speak of Jesus to them.
I have mentioned a couple of methods that I have used to open conversations to share my faith with others. Helen, my wife, is far more gifted in the use of friendship evangelism. She was employing friendship evangelism before either of us knew there was a name for it.